Fish Pedicures Illegal in 14 States

image via Elyse Sewell's Livejournal

Some states are apparently unconvinced that having the dead skin of one's feet pecked off by tiny, hungry fish is a sanitary procedure. Fourteen states, including Texas and Florida, have placed bans on so-called fish pedicures, a practice long-popular in China that only recently began to take off in the United States.

The fad began when salon owner John Ho began looking for an alternative to pedicure razors, which have been banned in several states over safety concerns. He traveled to Chengdu, China, where he and his wife treated themselves to a full-body treatment. They loved it. Ho set up his own fish pedicure practice in Fairfax County, Virginia, enjoying buzz he couldn't have paid for if he wanted to when Diane Sawyer visited the spa for a segment on Good Morning America.

But other salon owners hoping to capitalize on fish pedicures' newfound popularity have been shut down by state laws outlawing the use of live animals in cosmetology. The problem, according to the Wall Street Journal's Philip Shishkin, is sanitary:
Cosmetology regulations generally mandate that tools need to be discarded or sanitized after each use. But epidermis-eating fish are too expensive to throw away. "And there's no way to sanitize them unless you bake them for 20 minutes at 350 degrees," says Lynda Elliott, an official with the New Hampshire Board of Barbering, Cosmetology and Esthetics. The board outlawed fish pedicures in November. And no one wants a meal of flesh-eating fish, right?

It's also unclear whether fish pedicures are even enjoyable. Elyse Sewell, a former contestant on America's Next Top Model, tried a fish pedicure (at "Dr. Fish cafe" in Seoul) to less-than stellar results. Elyse wrote on her blog:
Dr Fish eat dead skin; apparently there are full-immersion Dr Fish tanks in Turkey, but here in Seoul you can only get knee-deep. It costs five bucks for the privilege of wearing these hepatitis electric shock tickle-torture boots for fifteen minutes; if you're even a third as ticklish as I am, you will spend this time in the most profound psychological distress. She then posted the picture below, writing, "And for what! This is the "after" shot. Still jacked. My more deeply-callused heels had visible nibble pockmarks."

image via Elyse Sewell's Livejournal.

Sawyer, on the other hand, said the fish chomping felt like "tiny delicate kisses."

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